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Gov. Abbott: Grid operator insisted ‘we are ready’ for storm that knocked out power to millions


Texas Gov. Greg Abbott took aim Friday at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, saying the grid operator assured him beforehand that “we are ready” for the deadly Arctic blast that paralyzed the state, leaving millions without power.

With electricity now restored to most households, the Republican governor said at a press conference that he was informed by ERCOT five days before the storm hit that the state’s electrical grid was prepared to weather the blast.

“I want to let you know what these experts told us,” Mr. Abbott said. “They said five days before the winter storm hit, ERCOT assured [us] that, quote, we are ready for the cold temperatures coming our way.”

“They also said that ERCOT had issued a notice to power plants to make sure they were winterized properly,” Mr. Abbott said. “And ERCOT’s annual winter assessment, which was designed to ensure the state is prepared, that assessment assured the public of Texas that there would be enough power to meet peak demand this winter.”

The result, however, was that “ERCOT fell short on all three of these promises that they made.” The non-profit grid manager is overseen by the Public Utility Commission of Texas.

About 165,000 Texas households were still without power Friday thanks to downed power lines and connection failures, not a lack of electricity generation, allowing ERCOT to lift emergency conditions.

“There is enough generation on the electric system to allow us to begin to return to more normal operating conditions,” said Dan Woodfin, ERCOT senior director of system operations, in a statement.

While most residents now have power, many were still grappling Friday with food, fuel and water shortages brought on by the historically cold temperatures that burst pipes and froze roads, making them impassable for deliveries.

Mr. Abbott said that water would be restored “as quickly as possible,” saying the state is working with local water companies, and that roads continue to thaw “by the minute,” allowing grocery stories and gas stations to stock up.

The state is also importing plumbers from Arkansas and elsewhere as well as renewing licenses to meet the anticipated demand for repairs to cracked water pipes, he said.

Mr. Abbott called Tuesday for a state investigation into ERCOT over the power outages that left more than four million without electricity after the grid operator implemented rolling blackouts early Monday to protect the grid from an overload.

ERCOT CEO Bill Magness said Tuesday that the state was hit by “historic weather” in the form of single-digit temperatures, freezing rain and snow across the state that froze wind turbines, blanketed solar panels, and seized up natural gas production.

“We’ve never seen a winter storm, a winter event anywhere close to that,” Mr. Magness told KXAN-TV in Austin.

Mr. Abbott said he would push for state funding to winterize the state electricity grid, which normally has more to fear from extreme heat in summer than extreme cold.

“Listen, we know you folks at home have faced struggles by going without power,” he said, adding, “We want to make sure that whatever happened in ERCOT falling short never happens again, even if it means the state stepping up, providing funds.”

An estimated 47 people have died across Texas and the Midwest in the sub-freezing temperatures, according to a Washington Post tally.

In Texas, an Abilene man died in his bed in a house that was the same temperature as outside. Two other Taylor County men, both elderly, were found dead in their frigid homes without power or heat, while another died on his back porch, the Associated Press reported.

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